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Dec 272014

79938514 munu1 Manchester United 3 1 Newcastle UnitedUnited may have had issues at Villa Park last week when Wayne Rooney had his hands full dealing with the brilliant Fabian Delph, but it was a different story against Newcastle United. To be sure, Carrick has been playing some of his best football ever since coming back from injury, but he has no stomach for dealing with the cheap shots Vernon Anita and Jack Colback lay on him throughout proceedings. Carrick misses Marouane Fellaini very very much and there was often a black hole in the center of midfield today that neither United, minus Fellaini, or Newcastle, with Cheik Taote missing through suspension could fill. Nevertheless, massive warts and all, baby step by baby step, Manchester United are improving. Eight games in a row without a loss, United can look forward to a very hairy, macho test on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur. One thing is for sure, things will be tough, and it will be a long afternoon if Carrick’s heart is AWOL against Spurs’ dense midfield.

They showed much confidence today, although there seems to be a refusal beyond De Gea and Rooney to consistently keep up the kind of relentless, energy-sapping counterattacking pressure they ought to specialize in more and more relentlessly. Against Newcastle’s slow CB pairing of Coloccini and Taylor and the tactical naïveté of Anita and Colback, the Magpies could offer nothing to muffle Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata as they buzzed and hovered behind Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. Rooney scored two absolute killer goals, as if he were channeling Paul Scholes, the Ginger Prince. The third goal, an exquisite long distance pearl of a pass from Rooney to Van Persie which he swept home at the far post was the coffin nail. Had there been a true presence in midfield it could have a cricket score.

It was also a super day for Radomel Falcao, who calmly and diligently set up the first two for Rooney. Looking sharper with each appearance and throwing himself into tackle, the Colombian is about to transform into an unstoppable force of nature.

Newcastle began well, but beyond passing the ball repeatedly to Sissoko and giving Carrick a kicking, their attacks would run out of energy in the last third of the field. Early on they had the ball a lot, but Sissoko repeatedly lost the ball after making long head-down and they never managed to capitalize on the usual lax positioning and stasis of the back three Jones, Evans and McNair.

It was Rooney who set up the first goal. After picking off a bad Gouffran pass to Perez, the team captain took off on a long muscular sprint into the penalty area before making a neat pass to Mata, who picked out Falcao, who in turn launched himself like a missile at Mata’s cross which he directed backward at a flying Rooney, who smashed it home in the 25th minute. It was end-to-end genius!

79941348 vanpersiegoalafp Manchester United 3 1 Newcastle UnitedFalcao and Rooney are becoming used to each other and on the night’s evidence, one can’t help but recall the muscle memory of the 2007-08 triumvirate of Tevez and Rooney setting the tempo and table for Ronaldo. At any rate, eleven minutes later, Falcao slide-tackled the ball off Perez, passed unselfishly to Mata, whose slide-rule pass found the assassin Rooney, who supplied the merciless finish.

United, may have been stupid and mistake-prone at the back, but the deadly triumvirate and goalkeeper David De Gea make up for a multitude of poverty and mediocrity elsewhere. Indeed 30 minutes in, De Gea’s fantastic save of an absolute Daryl Janmaat missile almost changed the complexion of the match, but so it goes these days. Indeed, United might have kept a clean sheet save for the determination of all or any of our CBs to keep DDG’s averages below those of Chelsea’s Thibault Courtois.

Indeed when Phil Jones had no reason whatsoever to clip Jack Colback in the penalty box, he did so for no fathomable reason beyond seeing what it was like to use his left foot. Perhaps so he could offer up some of those rubbery clown faces that make him the north-west’s version of Tommy Cooper. It’s good T.V.! Football-wise, beyond the lapses, he made a few bursting runs through an empty midfield that show his burning potential for stardom in Scotland or the Championship.

Speaking of Scotland and the Championship, it gets a little nerve-racking when Carrick is taken off for anybody, but definitely Darren Fletcher. Since his return from injury, he has been the catalyst for so much of United’s improvement. Of course, Van Gaal was trying to save the immaculate one for Sunday’s duel with Spurs’ packed midfield. A damp squib without protection, I am I am lighting candles and praying for the return of the big-in-every-way Fellaini on Sunday at White Hart Lane.
79941350 falcaogetty Manchester United 3 1 Newcastle United

Ivor Irwin

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